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UPDATED: Private School Advocates Slam Gov’s Education Cuts, Launch Phone Campaign

UPDATED: Private School Advocates Slam Gov’s Education Cuts, Launch Phone Campaign

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

New York Governor David Paterson’s proposed budget will slash what many consider to be an already paltry level of taxpayer support for private schools by 41 percent, which has an alliance of private, Jewish and Catholic school advocates up in arms.

Invoking the famous Daily News headline about Gerald Ford, Teach-NYS paraphrases Paterson as telling religious and independent schools to “Drop Dead.”

That’s a tough rap on a governor charged with addressing a $51 billion deficit over the next four years. No area of spending has been left untouched, and I report in this week’s paper that the fiscal solvency of some non-profit nursing homes may be threatened by the cuts in Medicare spending.

But Teach-NYS, a group founded under an initiative from Brooklyn’s Sephardic community, was hoping in recent years to deepen public support for private schools through a tax break to tuition paying parents and more subsidies, ideas that were supported by both Paterson and his short-serving predecessor Eliot Spitzer.

The group has set up a hotline to transfer irate calls directly to the Governor’s office in Albany: (888) 720-1961.

Here’s the full statement from the group:

“Gov. Paterson’s budget proposal, announced yesterday, would cut tens of millions in funding to non-public schools. These cuts would have a dramatic impact on all non-public schools.

The Governor’s budget proposal seeks to eliminate the Comprehensive Attendance Program (CAP) for non-public schools, cutting almost $55 million in funding as compared to last year’s budget. CAP is a state mandated program. It is a security measure that requires that schools take attendance at the start of every period to ensure that students are attending their classes and not leaving the school during class time. Without CAP, non-public schools will have to shoulder the burden of carrying out these security measures. If they cannot find the necessary funding to continue these security measures, they will be forced to cease them.

Including CAP, the Mandated Services Reimbursement program for non-public schools totaled almost $135 million last year. The proposed budget cut would reduce funding for non-public schools to $80 million. That is a 41% permanent cut in funding for non-public schools.

“We understand that our current fiscal crisis warrants deep budget cuts, but the disparity between the 3.3% cut for public schools and the 41% cut for non-public schools is outrageous,” said David Greenfield, a spokesman for Teach NYS. “The cut amounts to a loss of hundreds of dollars per student for many schools, and will put schools in a situation where they will be forced to increase tuition at a time when many parents are already struggling mightily with the cost of tuition,” Greenfield added. “Our communities and parents will be fighting these cuts.”

About 500,000 students, or 15% of school children, attend independent and religious schools throughout New York State. These include Catholic Schools, Yeshivas, Independent Schools and other religious schools such as Christian Academies.

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